Ch 01 Tribes and Legions

Roman Britain

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CHAPTER I: TRIBES AND LEGIONS

SECTION 3: ROMAN BRITAIN 
 
HAVING CONQUERED GAUL IN 55 BC, CAESAR INVADED BRITAIN IN 53 BC, ATTRACTED BY TALES OF PEARLS AND CORN, THOUGH HIS MOTIVES WERE STRATEGIC RATHER THAN ECONOMIC.

BRITISH WARRIORS HAD CROSSED THE CHANNEL TO HELP GAULISH KINSMEN, AND BRITAIN BECAME A REFUGE FOR DEFEATED GAULS.

BUT CAESAR COULD NOT BE ASSURED OF THE CONTINUED ROMAN OCCUPATION OF GAUL.

ROMAN IMPERIALISM WAS BASED ON PREDATORY EXPLOITATION. IT NEEDED A CONSTANT FORWARD MOVEMENT TO PREVENT DECLINE AT THE CENTRE.

IT WAS NOT UNTIL NEARLY A CENTURY LATER THAT ROME WAS READY TO DIGEST BRITAIN. CAESAR’S FIRST TWO INVASIONS WERE LITTLE MORE THAN EXPEDITIONARY WITH SOME 10,000 MEN.

OPPOSITION WAS STRONG, THOUGH THE THAMES WAS CROSSED AND THE MAIN CASSIVELLAUNUS STRONGHOLD STORMED.

CAESAR THEN DEPARTED WITH HOSTAGES AFTER SECURING A PROMISE TO PAY TRIBUTE.

IN THE YEARS BETWEEN THE FIRST INCURSION AND THE INVASION OF AD 43, TRADE BECAME CONSIDERABLE. CORN AND HIDES WERE EXCHANGED FOR POTTERY AND LUXURY ARTICLES.

TRADERS AND COLONISTS SETTLED, AND TOWNS GREW SO CONSIDERABLY THAT ST ALBANS WAS GIVEN CIVIC STATUS AS A ROMAN SELF GOVERNING TOWN. THE WEALTHY BUILT IMITATION ROMAN STONE VILLAS THERE.

BOADICEA LED THE ICENI REVOLT IN AD 60 AND SACKED LONDON, COLCHESTER AND ST ALBANS WITH THE LOSS OF UP TO 70,000 LIVES

BUT THE EASE WITH WHICH BRITAIN WAS CONQUERED WAS MAINLY DUE TO EARLIER ECONOMIC PENETRATION BY THE ROMANS AND THE DISINTEGRATION OF CELTIC TRIBAL ORGANISATION.

ROMAN OCCUPATION LASTED ALMOST 400 YEARS, BUT QUESTIONS REMAIN CONCERNING ROMANISATION AND WHETHER IT LEFT A LASTING LEGACY.

ROMAN BRITAIN DIVIDED ITSELF INTO NORTH AND SOUTH. NETWORKS OF ROADS WERE BUILT WITH MILITARY OUTPOSTS AT YORK, LINCOLN, CHESTER, LEICESTER AND CAERLEON, BUT THERE WERE NO MAJOR TOWNS NORTH OF THESE. 

THE NATIVE POPULATION REVOLTED REGULARLY. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT TRIBAL ORGANISATION WAS SERIOUSLY INTERFERED WITH.

FURTHER SOUTH, THE SITUATION WAS DIFFERENT, WITH LARGE AGRICULTURAL ESTATES AND TRADE BEING WELL DEVELOPED.

THE LATIN LANGUAGE AND ROMAN MODE OF PRODUCTION AFFECTED THE MASS OF THE PEOPLE, WHO BECAME GANGS OF SLAVES OR SEMI-SERVILE ‘COLONI’ WHO WERE ALLOWED TO CULTIVATE PATCHES OF LAND IN RETURN FOR FIXED RENTS AND SERVICES.

DEPOPULATION BECAME A LABOUR PROBLEM, AND THE ROMAN INABILITY TO FIND NEW SOURCES OF SLAVES MAY HAVE HELPED ACCELERATE THEIR DECLINE.

EVEN SO, LARGE AREAS OF WOODLAND AND FOREST WERE CLEARED FOR AGRICULTURE. THE HUGE DEMAND FOR FUEL FOR ELABORATE HEATING SYSTEMS TRANSFORMED WHOLE CIVIC DISTRICTS, INCLUDING POPULATIONS, INTO THE ROMAN PATTERN OF LIFE.

THERE IS NOT THE SLIGHTEST EVIDENCE THAT INHABITANTS THOUGHT OF THEMSELVES AS BRITONS, AS OPPOSED TO ROMAN PROVINCIALS.

HOWEVER, THE PERMANENT EFFECT OF ROMAN OCCUPATION WAS ASTONISHINGLY MEAGRE.

ROADS REMAINED, BUT TOWNS WERE LAID WASTE.

THE FEUDAL MANOR AND ECONOMIC STRUCTURE REMAINED, BUT WHEN CHRISTIANITY, INTRODUCED BY THE LEGIONS, REMAINED AND PENETRATED IRELAND, IT ALSO ACQUIRED A CURIOUSLY TRIBAL CHARACTER AND PLAYED A BIG PART IN MOULDING THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ANGLIAN KINGDOM OF NORTHUMBRIA.

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